Q: My son is 14 and has recently begun asking if he can go to rock concerts with his friends. Not only have I never heard of the groups he talks about but the venues often take 45 minutes to an hour to get to. In addition, the concerts are not over until quite late and I am concerned about him being out on the road at that time of night. He has asked to be able to go with one of his friends who is 16 and is driving. I feel very uncomfortable about this, but my son is a good kid, responsible in many ways, and I don’t want to be unfair by not allowing him to do something that appears to be very important to him. How do most parents handle this problem?
A: As with many things in the “middle years,” pre-teens and teens are constantly looking forward to new privileges and being allowed to do new activities. Concerts are high on the hit list of exciting entertainment activities and many can’t wait to attend their first one. Therefore, your son’s desire to go is quite normal; the challenge is figuring out a way so that he can attend certain concerts and you can be as comfortable as possible. I say “certain” because this type of activity should be seen as a privilege, not a right. In addition, the lyrics and image used by many groups playing concerts today are certainly unsuitable for a young teen.
This is not to say that you must allow him to go if you are totally against the idea. You are the parent, you know your kid best and you have your standards. Many kids survive adolescence without having attended a single concert; however, most teens attend at least a concert or two in their high school career and thoroughly enjoy them.
Let’s set up some ground rules that you may wish to discuss with your son when considering allowing him to attend concerts.
- First, make sure that the group or groups that he’s going to see are reasonably appropriate. Try to listen to their music (many music stores today will allow you to listen to any CD without having to purchase it). If you find the group’s message and words relatively inoffensive, then attending a concert by them should be OK. However, if the language is obscene or the message promotes socially undesirable behaviors — such as illegal activities or prejudices — then tell him that he needs to choose another concert to attend. (Remember, though, he’s probably not going to be interested in seeing the Everly Brothers or Johnny Mathis, so try to be somewhat realistic in your expectations.)
- Second, consider the timing and location of the concert. For good reason, most parents disapprove of their children attending such events on evenings before school days, as the kids often do not get home until well after midnight. There is, however, a possible silver lining to weeknight concerts in that there tend to be fewer drunk drivers on the road during the trip home.
- Third, make sure that you are comfortable with the transportation arrangements. I’ve known many 13-15-year-olds who are happy to be taken to concerts by parents and actually sit near them or will agree to being dropped off and picked up by the adult. As your child becomes 16 or 17, it is more difficult to convince him that an adult should drive. If you are considering letting a 14-year-old go to a concert with a friend, it’s best that the driver have at least a year or two of driving under his belt before tackling concert crowds and late-night highways.
- Finally, set up a communication system. He should be told to call at a certain time to assure you that everything is going well. He should also call to tell you when he is leaving the event. Cell phones, of course, have made this much easier — you can loan him yours if he doesn’t have is own — but even if one is not available, that should be no excuse for him not to make a couple of calls.
The key in concert-going is that your child feels that in return for being reasonable in allowing him to share in an adolescent rite-of-passage that you are comfortable with his choice of bands, location, timing and transportation. It may be best to discuss all of these issues with him now so that when specific concerts come up, he’ll know ahead of time which ones you’re likely to allow.
Ruth A. Peters, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and regular contributor to “Today.” Her most recent book is "Laying Down the Law: The 25 Laws of Parenting" (, 2002). For more information you can visit her Web site at . Copyright 2004 by Ruth A. Peters, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific psychological or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist.